Fire guts 100-year-old Minneapolis church

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2011 - 9:29 PM

Investigators say that it was arson and that the fire had several points of ignition.

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A fire early Monday destroyed a 100-year-old south Minneapolis building that once housed a church.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Fire destroyed a 100-year-old church in south Minneapolis early Monday in a two-alarm blaze that city officials labeled as arson.

The owner now faces a 10-day deadline to remove what remains of the 5,000-square-foot, wood-and-stucco structure at 3115 E. 42nd St.

The registered owner of the building, Mohammed Shahidullah, could not be reached for comment, but records show he has tangled repeatedly with city and state regulatory boards, losing licenses to practice veterinary medicine and to rent property.

According to city records, Shahidullah bought the church property in 2002 for $175,000. It was believed to be vacant at the time it burned and, in recent years, has been the site of furniture sales and occasional religious services.

City inspectors also know Shahidullah as the owner of a property on SE. Erie Street near the University of Minnesota, where inspectors discovered 10 to 12 people residing. The property, a four-bedroom house, legally could house six unrelated adults, according to city officials. Numerous other code violations also were found. His license to rent the property was revoked in 2010.

He's still listed as the owner of properties on W. Central Avenue and N. Lexington Parkway in St. Paul, and in Winsted, Minn., a rural community west of Minneapolis.

His veterinary license was revoked in 1997 for "incompetent and inhumane care," according to state records. Shahidullah was licensed in Minnesota in 1978, according to records with the state Board of Veterinary Medicine. He usually operated out of his car, making house calls across parts of rural Minnesota, according to the board.

His clients complained that he performed surgeries on animals at their homes on countertops, and kitchen and dining room tables, using unsanitary techniques. He left animal parts in clients' wastebaskets, according to board records. The board determined that he showed "disregard and disrespect" for the rules of proper veterinary care.

Monday's blaze lit up the south Minneapolis neighborhood and cut off power in the area.

Tesha Christensen said she didn't hear the fire engine sirens approach her neighborhood at 2 a.m., but when the power went out at 3:30 a.m. at her house less than a block from the church, she looked out the window.

"And there's this glow in the sky," she said.

She was joined by as many as 30 of her neighbors, many of them in pajamas, as they watched the church burn down.

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329

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